Li Liming hopes the new free trade zone status will attract foreign companies to Shenyang.The 54-year-old deputy manager of the Shenyang Area of China (Liaoning) Pilot Free Trade Zone believes foreign investment could be the key to upgrading the local economy.
"The main aim of the FTZ is to boost the regional economy by both bringing foreign companies into the country and by sending domestic companies out."
The Liaoning FTZ - one of seven new FTZs launched by the Chinese government in April - has so far attracted investment from 53 foreign companies.
The aim of the zone is to specialize in six areas: intelligent manufacturing, aviation, automobiles, spare parts, logistics and modern services.
"We have so far brought in companies from the US, Germany, Australia, South Korea and Hong Kong," he says. "They are in trade, trade finance and consulting."
Li says the aim is to promote the FTZ through economic and trade representatives in various countries, visits by Chinese leaders and connections with local chambers of commerce.
"Foreign companies do have knowledge of FTZs because Liaoning is among the third wave of the new FTZs, and many of them already have had the experience of working with an FTZ. The aim is for the services provided by all the FTZs to be cohesive and similar."He, says, however, that Liaoning intends to take its own approach.
"We can learn from the four FTZs already launched, but each FTZ is in a different location with its own features, so not everything can be adapted by Liaoning."
He hopes the FTZ will play an important role in China's Belt and Road Initiative. "Shenyang is the only logistics hub in the northeast region. It is also an established industrial base used to sending out its output to other countries. In addition, Shenyang's railway marshalling yard is the largest in Northeast China that can connect the region to Europe."
Li, who took over his current role in December last year, has been with the Shenyang local government since 1997. He was previously in charge of developing economic and trade links with Southeast Asia.
He says many people make the mistake of thinking that Shenyang is in decline because of the region's dependence on heavy industry and State-owned enterprises.
"Economically, it is a lot more prosperous than when I was growing up. The phenomenon of industrial decline is a gradual process, and it is only actually declining in relation to other sectors. Many areas of the economy area actually developing.
Li believes the Liaoning FTZ is very strategically placed because of its proximity to the other northeast provinces of Harbin and Jilin but also the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, South Korea, Japan and Russia.
"In many ways because of Shenyang's special geographical place, it provides a pathway to a very important region."